With a cast that looks so unlike siblings and a story that crams all kinds of dysfunction on one family, director Shawn Levy is asking for some serious suspension of disbelief. I liked This Is Where I Leave You but more because I enjoyed spending time with these actors in these performances — not necessarily because I was moved by the film.
“It’s hard to make a personal film based on your own experience,” Thom Andersen warns in Los Angeles Plays Itself, “when you’re absurdly over-privileged. You tend not to notice the less fortunate, and that’s almost everybody.” No kidding. Levy has so little interest in anybody other than his comfortably rich that the world of the film doesn’t feel properly populated: There aren’t even service-industry workers on the periphery. (This probably goes without saying, but there isn’t a single black face on the screen.) Exclusivity of this kind is not inherently bad. But it does betray the movie’s foundational problem: It is oblivious to life as anyone really lives it. Early on in This Is Where I Leave You, Bateman slumps teary-eyed into a burnished-oak chair in the middle of his preposterously oversized New York apartment. Levy has the gall to slather on a bit of sad-sack piano — minor chords. Come on. You cannot play minor chords in digs that nice. Westword Review
I did not really notice the privileged upper-crust environment except for the cars. I think I’ve grown used to the wealthy families that often populate the big screen. The absurdity of the situation: a dysfunctional bunch of siblings forced to share the family home for an extended period of time was a good plot device. If some of the situations weren’t believable; the acting was always enjoyable. Who wouldn’t mind spending time with Tina Fey, Jason Bateman or the particularly charming, Adam Driver? Jane Fonda was a crack-up and it was nice to see supporting characters like Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn. Growing up in a big family, the interactions and petty jealousy that build up over time felt real. Your siblings can be our biggest supporters and your worst enemies…no matter what car is parked in the driveway!
Rating: 4 shots of tequila to heal old wounds
Bechdel rating: passes. Even an acknowledgement that older women have sex drives and a wife who has adulterous sex but isn’t punished for it!